The Israel Defense Forces this week rolled out a new training program aimed at equipping soldiers deployed in the West Bank with non-lethal measures to combat Palestinian attackers and terrorists.
“Not every attack carried out by a young girl with scissors needs to end in a fatal shooting,” combat instructor Lt. Col. Itamar Kolehli told Channel 2, recalling the off-duty police officer who fatally shot one of two Palestinian teenage girls attempting to carry out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem last year.
Kolehli said the new training program was introduced in response to the months-long wave of Palestinian violence in which many young assailants have been killed by security forces while carrying out attacks.
“What we are striving to do is connect the training with what is happening on the ground, to fit the changing nature of the threats facing the troops,” Kolehli said.
A video showed the soldiers being trained in various Krav Maga techniques to neutralize attackers without using their weapons.
The contentious incident referred to by Kolehli took place last November when Palestinian teens armed with scissors stabbed and lightly wounded an elderly man in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market.
An off-duty police officer opened fire, killing a 16-year-old girl and critically wounding a 14-year-old. He was later investigated by the Police Investigations Department at the Justice Ministry on suspicion of using excessive force when he continued to fire at the girl when she no longer constituted a threat.
In recent months, senior defense officials have criticized the use of excessive firepower in subduing Palestinian attackers.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon both warned soldiers earlier this year against being “trigger happy” when faced with attackers.
Eisenkot in February stressed that the army’s rules of engagement were sufficient to deal with terrorist threats, adding that he would not want to see a situation in which a soldier emptied a full magazine “at a girl holding scissors.”
The IDF chief also stressed said that a soldier must shoot to kill perpetrators of terrorist attacks only if there is an immediate threat to human life.
Days later, then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon urged security forces over “becoming trigger-happy simply because our blood is boiling.” Ya’alon said Israel “must act calmly, judiciously and with discretion,” even in the face of the unrest that erupted last year.
In the wave of terrorism that began in October 2015, Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks have taken the lives of 34 Israelis, and four foreign nationals. At the same time, at least 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces — the overwhelming majority while carrying out attacks, but others during clashes and demonstrations.